BESIDE THE POINT HOME To subscribe to this blog via your RSS reader: CLICK HERE
To read more of Pat's articles: CLICK HERE
To follow Pat on Twitter (@PatMcManamon): CLICK HERE

Other teams prove holding players publicly accountable is not a bad thing

By Pat McManamon

There’s a lot to be said for accountability. Some teams, some coaches … they hold guys accountable, publicly as well as behind closed doors.

None of this keep it in-house stuff.

This week there were a couple examples of accountability, where coaches basically went public with some very blunt and truthful feelings about their players.

They were negative feelings, and lo and behold the world did not end because of them.

The first happened in Pittsburgh, where Mike Tomlin followed the loss to the Browns with some major changes.

Starting running back Rashard Mendenhall arrived to find he had been demoted. To third team.

Then receiver Mike Wallace, he of the 1,193 yards and Pro Bowl appearance in 2011, found himself demoted to co-starter with Emmanuel Sanders. Both players are former stars who are struggling this season, Mendenhall because he’s coming off knee surgery, and Wallace (by most assessments) because he’s in a snit about his contract.

Wallace did not report to training camp on time because he was upset he was given a first-round tender as a restricted free agent. He then overvalued his worth, and turned down an extension that averaged $10 million per year. He’s now playing for the tender at $2.7 million.

He’s not helped himself with lazy and uninspired play. When he watched two long passes fall incomplete or be intercepted against the Browns rather than make an effort to break them up or even catch them, Tomlin had enough.

And he called out Wallace publicly.This was not an insignificant move; it clearly sent Wallace a message.

Life went on in Pittsburgh. People still ate, worked and slept even though a coach had criticized a player in public.

In Boston, Celtics coach Doc Rivers also wasn’t mincing any words about his team. Following a game against Brooklyn when Rajon Rondo went after Kris Humphries for a hard foul on Kevin Garnett, Rivers called his team “soft,” said Rondo’s actions were not indicative of toughness, and he was disappointed in Jeff Green.

He basically called out his team. In public. Using real words that might make the guys he mentioned angry.

Boston did not fall into the ocean.

In the same week, Cavs coach Byron Scott summed up a loss by saying Anderson Varejao had a great game, but the rest of the team sucked.

Again, the Cavs did not have to fold the team or deal with petulant players. They heard the criticism, and accepted it.

The only reason this is at all relevant is that this rarely seems to happen with the Browns, and on the few times it does — when a coach is actually critical — it’s made into a major scandal with only TMZ missing.

The Browns general approach over the years has been to protect players publicly and try to hide certain things. The vision of Butch Davis saying the defensive line dominated in a game when Jamal Lewis set the rushing record comes to mind, as does the old “the policeman said Gerard Warren was the finest, nicest many they had ever arrested” statement. How many times has the old “we lose as a team” line been used by the orange helmet guys?

Sometimes being protective has worked, other times it’s backfired. Like when Braylon Edwards went to that Ohio State-Michigan game in Columbus against the advice of his teammates and was late returning and word got out he was late returning and nothing happened to Edwards.

The Browns seem to prefer the old keep-it-in-house and keep-it-from-the-public approach. Which is OK. But if players are adults and treated as adults, and if they understand part of their job is to be accountable, then they would not mind being called out in public.

Especially if it’s warranted.

A few years ago, the Patriots lost an AFC Championship Game on a long pass, and Bill Parcells said they had a safety who fell asleep.

The safety didn’t care, because it was true.

Parcells didn’t care, because he had spoken the truth.

And the team didn’t care, because they understood.

It’s an amazing thing, accountability.

It can hurt feelings sometimes, but it also sends a couple clear messages.

One is that the team is not afraid of being open about things, which is good for the fans.

The other is that players need to accept it. And if they do, they might realize if they don’t want to be called out in public then they should not do the things that lead to that. It clearly works in other cities, with other teams and leagues (NBA coaches can be brutally blunt). The world does not end because of a critical comment.

Hopefully the Browns new management team realizes that a modified version of an old saying  rings very, very true: The facts shall set you free.

blog comments powered by Disqus